#MeToo victim demands apology from opposition presidential candidate's wife

People at Seoul Station, Monday, watch the news coverage about the recordings of Kim Keon-hee's phone calls. Newsis

By Lee Hae-rin

Comments made by Kim Keon-hee, the wife of main opposition People Power Party (PPP) presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol, have backfired as some #MeToo victims and gender experts demand an apology.

Kim Ji-eun, who worked as a secretary for the former South Chungcheong Province Governor An Hee-jung and who exposed the fact that she was sexually assaulted by him, issued a statement via the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, Monday.

"I heard her sarcastic comments on TV where she was speaking about my case. Her words are baseless and contradict the court's judgment regarding the guilty verdict," Kim said in the statement, urging the presidential candidate's wife to deliver a sincere apology for her "reckless remarks."

"Your thoughtless words resulted in secondary victimization and internet users are now harassing me with malicious comments," she said.

The Supreme Court handed down a sentence of three years and six months to former Governor An on the charge of sexual assault by exploiting his position of power at work against Kim Ji-eun, Sept. 2019. The case was viewed as a symbolic event in the #MeToo movement here at the time.

In the recordings of Kim's private phone calls, revealed on Sunday by the local broadcaster MBC, Kim was heard saying, "Conservatives make sure they pay. They never use someone free of charge."

Kim was also heard claiming that #MeToo victims reveal sexual assault allegations because they didn't get paid, referring to several sex scandals within the ruling democratic bloc. She went on to say that she felt sorry for the former governor and she and her husband were on An's side.

In a letter sent to MBC to clarify her position, the presidential candidate's wife said that she made some inappropriate remarks while criticizing some people who were involved in sexual exploitation and she was sorry for that.

Her remarks caused a stir.

Kim Ji-eun said she is still reeling from the traumatic experiences of secondary victimization, chiding the accusers for their careless remarks.

Rep. Kwon In-sook of the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) took on the issue, saying what Yoon's wife said was "shocking."

In her social media post, the lawmaker deplored the fact that there are some who deny the importance of the #MeToo movement. "But it is a totally different issue that the wife of one of the leading presidential candidates said that #MeToo came about as a result of victims not being paid off," she wrote.

As his wife's remarks on the leaked phone conversation triggered a controversy, Yoon offered an apology on behalf of his wife. During a meeting with the press after the forum of Buddhist leaders in central Seoul, Monday, he said "Anyway, I am sorry to have caused people so much worry."

When asked on which point he was apologizing for, Yoon said, "I should have taken better care (of Kim), as her husband," and added that he has been too busy with the presidential campaign and did not have enough time to talk with Kim recently.

In an official statement from PPP, vice spokesperson for the Central Election Commission Choi Ji-hyun stated the party intends to press charges against the reporter and the CEO of the YouTube news outlet The Voice of Seoul with "violation of women's rights and privacy," as they delivered the audio recordings to MBC and disclosed them on the YouTube channel, Monday.

Choi also commented, "discreet acquisition and delivery of private recordings are subject to punishment for violation of the Protection of Communications Secret Act," and said that the party will hold them politically and legally accountable for such infringements.

Lee Hae-rin lhr@koreatimes.co.kr

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